The Highland Echo Summer Playlist
How do you do, fellow kids?
I’ve you kept up with my column (or my “guest appearance” on MC’s socials), then you get that reference, and I trot it out again to say thank you: to readers for indulging me (especially those who love music as much as I do and might have discovered a few things); to Editor Emily Huffstetler for making a place for me in The Highland Echo; to the other editors and writers for graciously sharing space online and in print; and to Kim Trevathan, the outgoing faculty advisor for the Echo into whose shoes I’ll step come the fall.
They’re big ones to fill, but I’ll do my best. In the meantime, to send you out on something sweet, I wanted to compile a Spotify summer playlist, accessible through the QR code that accompanies this article, to send you off in style; a soundtrack, if you will, for the places you’ll go and the things you’ll do between the end of this academic year and the start of a new one.
Some of you will cross the stage on May 6 and depart for a summer that may involve job interviews and preparations and plans for the next phase of your lives. Others will go back home to work summer jobs and reunite with old friends. Still others may travel and play and soak up every moment possible free from responsibilities.
Whatever your summer looks like, there’s something for you on this playlist. The Echo staff has graciously agreed to contribute their own summer selections, so let’s dive in and give you some liner notes, of sorts, about what awaits.
- “Constructive Summer,” The Hold Steady: Let’s kick off with a bang, shall we? We’re gonna build something, indeed.
- “The Kool Herc,” KRS-One: Fun fact: DJ Kool Herc established the blueprint for hip-hop and rap during the 1970s with “Back to School Jams” that featured two turntables, isolated percussion and a block party for a Bronx neighborhood that had been decimated by redlining. Those parties gave rise to a whole new genre of music, and KRS-One penned this as a tribute.
- “Cruel Summer,” Taylor Swift: Just because. What, you think y’all are the only Swifties?
The next two were the selections of Kim Trevathan, who plans to spend the summer on a “meandering road trip to the west coast, with stops to reconnect with friends, family, landscapes and waterways.”
- “Pancho and Lefty,” Townes Van Zandt: When I heard the phrase “summer songs,” it immediately translated itself into “songs for road trips,” aimless voyages on unfamiliar roads, headlights flickering, moths and owls and shooting stars hoving into view. The essential road song for me is Townes Van Zandt’s “Pancho and Lefty,” and please not the awful overblown cover version. The narrative carries you along on an epic story of an outlaw and a lawman, with inside-out notions of justice and friendship. Great fiddle licks.
- “Time,” Pink Floyd: My next choice is a rockin’ contrast to the balladry of the first one. Back in the days when cars were the size of apartments, Floyd was the soundtrack to our country backroad explorations, often on gravel, speakers trembling at full volume. Trigger warning: there’s an amplified symphony of alarm clocks at the beginning of the song. Stick with it if you’ve never heard it, though most have, I suspect.
- “I Will Live on Islands,” Josh Rouse: The chorus says it all: “I will live on islands, and I will see the sun,” but there’s a nice little narrative wrapped around it.
- “I Am That I Am,” Peter Tosh”: Courtesy of Emily Huffstetler, who will leave her Study Abroad post in Spain for San Diego for a trip sponsored by the Taco Bell Foundation. After returning to Maryville, she plans to spend the summer “enjoying the company of family and friends and working at my summer jobs.” Of “I Am That I Am,” she writes, “I’m an R&B girl through and through, but Jamaican reggae sounds like sunshine and community. I first listened to this song on a drive through the Smokies with my friends and found it to be the ultimate song to groove to after a long day of hiking. I later listened to the rest of the album, called “Equal Rights,” and got to know Peter Tosh, a revolutionary pan-Africanist who fought for African liberation through music. He performed many anti-apartheid concerts for free, sometimes paying his band out of his own pocket.”
- “One Day,” Lovejoy: Sophie Turner, the Echo’s graphics editor, chose this one because “I find the upbeat music with the somewhat edgy lyrics to be exactly what summer feels like for me,” she writes. “My family and I are going to Hawaii this summer, and I have a whole playlist of songs similar to this one ready for the long flight!”
- “Best of Times,” Sage Francis: Sage is one of my favorite hip-hop artists, and this song is so wonderfully nostalgic as a letter to his younger self about the school days of peer pressure, first love and getting through to adulthood. It’s beautiful.
- “Windfall,” Son Volt: One of the best songs ever recorded for all-night summer drives down state highways with the windows down.
- “1979,” Smashing Pumpkins: “Local Legends” columnist Shanon Adame, who plans to spend her summer outside, in the garden and exploring future column ideas, chose this one because “it reminds me of my youth and more relaxed, carefree days,” she writes. “They are also my favorite band of all time!”
- “Heavy Metal Drummer,” Wilco: A whimsical remembrance of days gone by (“I miss the innocence I’ve known …”).
- “Nova Scotia,” Boyscott,” selected by Echo online editor Lauren Huffstetler, who plans to work at Mountain Challenge over the summer after a trip to San Diego. “This song warms me up in a way similar to the way the sun does,” she writes. “It transports me to driving along a coastal highway, with the windows down, breathing in the salty air.”
- “Hawaiian Party,” Cub Sport: Another of Lauren’s picks: “‘Hawaiian Party’ reminds me of a summer night, as the sun takes a rest to recharge for another fantastic day,” she says. “It’s the perfect representation of a blissful evening with friends, after spending the day soaking up the sun’s wonderful rays.”
- “Steal My Sunshine,” LEN: A groovy, sunny summer hit by a one-hit wonder from way back in 1999.
- “Heat Wave,” Snail Mail: Such a great song about a summer fling kindled out of boredom.
- “West Coast,” Lana Del Rey: The Echo’s own Emma Henson chose this one as well as No. 18 because, she says, “both of these songs are perfect for listening to with the windows down while driving on a summer evening.”
- “Salad Days,” Mac DeMarco: Another of Emma’s picks, who says she’ll be on campus during the summer, working at the Clayton Center for the Arts and hiking in her down time.
- “Delirious,” Prince: That bounce, those double entendres, that slinky groove make for a hell of a summer treat.
- “I Know a Place,” MUNA: True story, when my colleague Brinley Knowles, class of 2020 and the College’s social media specialist, heard me putting together this playlist, she suggested this one. “To me, [it] captures the journey of feeling like nothing is wrong,” she says. “When the music plays, I think of dancing in a Pride parade, smiling as the sunshine falls down on rainbow flags, laughter, acceptance, and simply put, joy. You’re holding hands and hugging the person you love. Your people are there beside you, and they aren’t going anywhere. It’s June, and everything is okay. Love is all that exists.”
- “The Only Place,” Best Coast: Making dreamy indie-pop from California, this duo has plenty of summer-feeling songs, and this is a great one.
- “All Summer Long,” The Beach Boys: These guys, of course, invented summer jams, and no playlist would be complete without them.
- “Summer House,” Gold Motel: Singer Greta Morgan’s voice reminds me of Belinda Carlile’s, and that jangly pop vibe that’s the bedrock of this song is *chef’s kiss*.
- “Savannah,” Reliant K: Echo Assistant Editor Julia Jeffress selected this one and the next because, like so many of you wanderers who love the open road on a summer night, “both are songs that make me want to drive into the sunset with the windows down,” she writes. “To me, they feel like road trips, singing and dancing with friends, and you can’t get more summery than that!”
- “Malibu,” Miley Cyrus: Another pick by Julia, who plans to spend part of her summer “on a trip across Canada to speak French and live out my ‘Anne of Green Gables’ fantasy.”
- “Fourth of July,” Dave Alvin: One of my favorite troubadours, and the imagery of kids shooting off fireworks while a couple in distress attempts to figure out their relationship is gold.
- “I Can See Clearly Now,” Hothouse Flowers: Such a righteous, R&B-tinged cover of Jimmy Cliff’s glorious ballad about the emerging sun.
- “One Day,” Sharon Van Etten: Not necessarily summer-themed lyrically, but that dreamy, languid groove reminds me of driving up the spine of Arizona, with skies so azure they seemed stolen from a painting, the landscape as rustic and gorgeous as this song is.
- “Archie, Marry Me,” Alvvays: The Echo’s Calista Jones contributed this one, telling me it “just sounds like a song that would play in the background of a scene in a movie where two people reunite by running in slow motion toward each other on a beach. It starts with chirping birds, and it has an easy-going sound while also having a strong chorus with emotion.”
- “Hard to Explain,” The Strokes: Another pick by Calista, who’s headed to Costa Rica and New York both this summer. About the song, she writes that it’s “super fast-paced and exciting, but again, it has that easy-going nature to it as well that is very summery.”
- “Sherry Darling,” Bruce Springsteen: From his 1980 double album “The River,” Bruce demonstrates why he’s the champion of underdogs and the down-and-out, singing about those “girls melting on the beach” and the “hot sun beatin’ on the black top.”
- “Summer Nights,” Rascal Flatts: The Echo’s Bailey Myers chose this one because “it talks about summer starting up,” she writes. “It mentions how school is out, having bonfires at the beach, and just being able to relax, hang out and not have to worry about anything.” Sounds like the perfect theme song to her summer plans, which include hanging out with friends, working out at the gym and practicing for next year’s softball season.
- “The Other Side of Summer,” Elvis Costello: I always crank this one up about August, as the days get a little shorter and the nights aren’t as humid and the most glorious season of the year seems to be on its way out the door. A little melancholy, a lot beautiful and the perfect closer for this playlist.
Enjoy, Scots. Have a great summer.